Organizational Development in the Work Place

Why it is important?
Competition is not new, and it is not going away. Our organizations must constantly adapt to the external influences and opportunities. Organization development is part of an continuous improvement effort, as the organization is a system, and any change in a subsystem will need to consider impacts on the interfacing subsystems and talent. In my humble experience, nothing erodes morale like metaphorically burning your hand on the same hot stove. Organization development helps reduce this occurrence, and encourages learning and even directs the learning in ways that match the priority of the organization.

Strategies and Approaches
Top down strategies, that is organization development directed from the organizations executives, will not likely result in the outcome the organizationís executives desires. The same can be said for bottom up approaches. I have been part of bottom up organization development that produced great results but only at the working levels and not at a level beyond this collection of departments. Key players in the management structure proved to be sufficient to stop the progress, largely based upon politics. Lesson learned, neither approach really work alone, and moreover all key stakeholders involved in the must be identified to improve success by understanding political positions and working within that context to make the improvements needed. Success will require top down and bottom up coordination.

Organization development requires the confluence of empowerment, motivation, leadership, and continuous learning and improvement. Tools like Total Quality Management (TQM) can be directed at measuring, understanding and changing the attributes and processes of the organization. TQM provides tools through which we can understand how the organization works through metrics. We couple TQM in the process in the Shewhart Cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act. These two tools can help the organizations make the changes in performance desired.

Planning is exactly what it sounds like, what do we know, or at least think needs to be changed. We can review metrics or measurements the organization has available to identify and theorize the actions we should take to make the situation better. Then create a plan to set about doing just that. This plan is for an increment, it is not an across the board change. We will need to learn if what we think will work, will in fact work, rather than disrupting the organization and having a large negative impact on the outcome. The plan is not made from top down, but the scope of what needs to be changed at the strategic level may be, the plan should rely heavily upon those that perform the work. These people should also figure prominently as well in the subsequent steps.

We will execute the plan, gathering metrics and learning from this work. We will perform tests of this change in selective areas that can be well controlled, or at least as controlled as possible, in such a way as to ensure the stability of the output of the organization.

Upon completion of the effort, we will review the results of this test. If our predictions of performance are true, then we will find a way to move to the next step. If our predictions are off, either worse than we thought, or much better than we thought, we need to work to understand why we are seeing this variation.

Act should really be thought of as enact. If we pass the check, then we will enact the change across the board in the organization. This will require process change documentation, and training for those that are connected with the change. It does little good to make the change if nobody is knowledgeable about the change. This applies not only to the management but to those doing the work.


There are also metrics that the organization tracks in their operations. For example, external compelling forces often drive for specific changes, like the time to market is too long for our organization, understanding why this time is so long, will then allow us to remove the significant barriers to our throughput. We learn these external environmental aspects from the boundary spanner roles in the organization. The boundary spanners are those that are able to view the organizationsí fit into the external world, marketing and customer interfaces, as well as advanced technology personnel within the organization are examples.

Changes in the organization are ideally incremental, small changes, aimed at a large improvement, measure the outcome or impact, then assess what the next change should be to move the organization in the direction of the desired change. Constant uncoordinated change will not produce the results that are desired, but truly disrupt the organization making things worse and not better.