Organization Development – 2.1 Building and OD Strategy

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2.     Beginning an OD Effort

Introduction

A successful long-term, OD project invariably begins with, and is guided by, a comprehensive and carefully planned strategy.  The purpose of this section is:

  • To outline the concepts behind strategy building;
  • To present some options for an overall approach;
  • To suggest ways to avoid, or at least minimize, the probability of failure patterns developing.

As a general point, the term ‘practitioner’ has been used, and will continue to be used, to cover the manager, leader or consultant that is leading the OD effort.

2.1    Building an OD Strategy

An OD strategy is a comprehensive plan based on a thorough analysis of organizational needs and goals.  It is designed to bring about specific changes and to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to secure those changes.  Included in it are:

  • Desired objectives;
  • Specific interventions aimed at achieving objectives;
  • Time scales;
  • A monitoring, review and evaluation system.

The strategy must specify contingencies as well as primary interventions and take into account the power and influence dynamics of the organization.

Specific interventions, such as team building and job redesign, are not strategies.  Interventions, unlike strategies, are simple activities with limited end objectives.  Practitioners who confuse interventions with strategies seldom exert significant, long-term impact on organizational performance.  If real organizational change is to be achieved and organizational performance improved, interventions must be seen only as parts of, and be embedded within, an overall strategy.

Because circumstances vary between organizations, organizational-change strategies will vary as well.  Likewise, the steps to strategy-building may differ from organization to organization.  However, it is possible to identify six general steps in this process.

Step 1:  Defining the change (OD) problem

In this step, information is gathered regarding the performance of the organization and barriers to desired performance levels.  Factors that might be identified as barriers include job designs, reward structures, skill levels, organizational structure, value systems, etc.  Care must be taken at this stage not to confuse symptoms with causes.  For example, absenteeism may reduce performance levels but, before progress can be made, the reasons for absenteeism must be determined.

Step 2:  Determining appropriate OD objectives

In this step, OD objectives are clearly and specifically defined, in both behavioural and quantitative terms, so that they are appropriate to, and consistent with, the particular organization.  Too often a practitioner initiates standard interventions without having identified clearly what needs to be accomplished or changed.  Spending time in determining objectives increases the probability for success and enhances the practitioner’s image as a contributor to the organization.

Step 3:  Determining the system’s and subsystem’s readiness and capacity to change

Nothing is more discouraging to a change effort than reaching the middle of a project and discovering that the organization or a specific group within it is not ready or able to change.  Analyzing readiness, willingness, and capacity before project initiation can help the practitioner to determine where to start and which interventions to use.  Many change efforts fail because the practitioner starts with the wrong part of the system or does not take into account the relationships among readiness, willingness, and capacity.  It will pay dividends to evaluate each key manager in this respect, as well as each major area or function.

Step 4:  Determining key subsystems

In this step, the total organization is reviewed to determine its key parts and its key personnel.  To be successful in an OD effort, the practitioner must focus on those groups within the organization that exert the greatest impact on organizational performance and on those managers who influence the direction of the organization.

Step 5:  Assessing one’s own resources

Assessing personal skills, talents, and emotional and social needs is not only consistent with meeting real organizational needs, it also assists the practitioner in maintaining an ethical stance.  No practitioner can do well in all situations or with all interventions.  However, the practitioner who takes stock of personal strengths and weaknesses before selecting a strategy is better able to determine which projects ‘fit’ his or her abilities and which do not.  Consequently, it is easier to determine which activities to conduct oneself and which to refer to other practitioners, thereby matching the right resources with particular organizational needs.

Step 6:  Selecting an approach and developing an action plan for reaching objectives

In selecting an approach to an effort and in planning the individuals steps for implementation, the practitioner must be concerned with which interventions to use, where in the organization to start, who is to be involved in the effort, how much time is required and how the effort will be monitored.  In view of the fact that OD is a process and that the practitioner must remain flexible and responsive to new developments, it is helpful to establish a flow diagram that accounts for each step.  This practice enables the practitioner to analyse the progress of the effort and whether it is leading where intended.  In addition, it enables managers to become closely involved in the process and convinces them that the practitioner is committed to reaching specific objectives that will benefit the organization.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …

http://www.theknowledge.biz/

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