The Role and Impact of Organizational Development

Organizational Development (OD) is an effort whereby organizations attempt to improve their work and the results that they get. The entire OD process ultimately aims at benefiting the company, its workers, and the shareholders. Organizational development can be adopted as a process by entire companies, public agencies, non-government organizations, and internal departments of companies. OD is essentially a process to bring about change in supporting improvements within the organization. OD consultants and companies team up in working together by defining the relevant issues and ascertaining the most appropriate course of action to follow. The organization is evaluated in creating an awareness of the present circumstances and then the action plan is formulated to achieve the business goals. OD is much different from the conventional methods of bringing change since the focus is made on the involvement of clients in the entire process. Emphasis is made on how employees interact and work as a team along with the technical matters that have to be resolved. The OD procedure depends on the action research model whereby identification is done of the issues and changes that have to be made. The procedure starts with assessing, identifying the interventions, implementing them, obtaining data to measure the effectiveness of the interventions, and ascertaining whether the result is as expected or whether change needs to be made to bring in further interventions. This is a cyclical procedure that ends with the achievement of the desired results

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Organizational Development (OD) comprises a series of humanistic techniques whereby knowledge of behavioral sciences and practice are utilized in helping companies to attain higher levels of efficiency, enhanced production, better services, and higher standards of living. OD focuses on improving organizational abilities in resolving the problems faced by its management and employees. Additionally, it aims at enhancing the effectiveness of the entire organizational system in terms of its environment and influence on employees (Cummins and Worley, 2008, pp 1). Over time OD has witnessed a lot of transformation as a management theory. Its main focus is on achieving high satisfaction levels for employees and companies. If used efficiently, OD interventions are highly effective, especially when changes are brought about in the organization

Most organizations are much concerned about making profits, enhancing productivity, and improving the morale and job satisfaction of workers since they influence the accomplishment of organizational goals. Recent trends have seen the willingness of organizations to maximize efforts and investments in workers. Work that some decades back required physical deftness is now more mental which requires companies to work smartly in applying creative initiatives.

The expectations of employees have also changed in that they want more in terms of a day’s work, other than just salary. They expect more challenges, a sense of achievement, appreciation, tasks that are worth their efforts, and meaningful relationships with their supervisors and colleagues. Consumers today expect enhanced quality continuously, efficient customer service, features that are unique and competitive prices. Such objectives can be achieved only by adopting inventive organizational systems. A successful organization should have the capability to meet current, as well as future challenges since the ability to adapt and be responsive to expectations, are imperative to flourish and to survive (Anderson, 2009).

Organizations in the current business environment have to operate in an environment that is altering very fast. As a result, an important advantage for any organization is its ability to adapt to changes and to manage them effectively for their benefit. Neilson (1984) has very aptly defined Organizational Development as,

“Organization Development is the attempt to influence the members of an organization to expand their candidness with each other about their views of the organization and their experience in it and to take greater responsibility for their actions as organization members. The assumption behind OD is that when people pursue both of these objectives simultaneously, they are likely to discover new ways of working together that they experience as more effective for achieving their own and their shared (organizational) goals. And that when this does not happen, such activity helps them to understand why and to make meaningful choices about what to do in light of this understanding” (Neilson, 1984, pp. 2-3 )

OD interventions have to be introduced in keeping with the established social science theories and procedures to enhance profitability, productivity, and employee morale and quality. Some of the activities that act as change agents and form

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OD interventions are in essence activities that are structured to be implemented separately or combined by clients in improving upon the performance of tasks. The interventions can be used by change agents to improve programs or to check the health of the organization or bring changes in the behavior of the organization. The structured exercises imply processes like experimental exercises, interviewing subjects, group activities, and teamwork amongst the organization and change agents. In making choices about the specific strategies several assumptions are made. The basic strength of any organization comprises teams which imply that the prime means of change are groups or teams and not just individual employees.

A major goal of managing change is to reduce competition amongst different teams in the same organization and to enhance levels of cooperation and teamwork (Anderson, 2009, pp. 89-91). The process of decision-making in an organization must start from the sources of information and knowledge instead of the hierarchy levels. A major objective of a sound organization is to adopt an atmosphere of maintaining open communication, trust in each other, and high confidence levels amongst different levels of managerial hierarchy and workers.

Organizational development entails taking action to improve the effectiveness of the company and that of employees. The objective is to enhance productivity, profitability, and job satisfaction for employees. The effectiveness of the organization is improved by using strategies that address the needs for assessing, planning, development, quality enhancement, team building, and other relevant organizational alterations. However, in recent years there have been questions about the OD approach being coherent in bringing about strategic change in organizations. There is now an emerging need to reinvent the area as is actively felt by even the founding fathers of the concept, such as DL Bradford and Wendell French. In this context, scholars have started giving a call for making changes and examining organizational development from the emotion-based perspective (Bradford, 2005, pp. 145-147).

Emotional trauma can adversely impact the performance of workers. Factors such as downscaling, outsourcing, reorganizing and some recurrent changes often make employees feel harassed and disappointed leading them to become aggressive, apprehensive, and fearful which negatively impacts performance levels. OD interventions entail an assessment of the problem-solving procedures so that there is an enhancement in the quality of an organization’s working system. The strengths and weaknesses of the organization are identified along with the management issues that need to be attended to in improving its productivity and profitability (Pasmore et al, 2007).

Principles of conflict management are used in making the inherent conflicts within the organization surface and then to develop a strategy to find solutions to the problems and to effectively manage the conflict situations. Facilitators assist and train workers in understanding and managing the conflicts. Interaction amongst the top management and employee groups results in executive development and improved effectiveness. It is essential to define concrete goals in any organization to make the organization function in the right direction. Companies have to also recognize, understand and start managing the inevitable resistance that occurs in bringing about organizational change.

To achieve excellence in services and production it is important to alter reporting structures in departments and identify responsibilities and job functions. Defined outcomes have to be reached by blending varied functions in the organization along with the general management of specific works. Workgroups have to be developed that take on the responsibility of creating systematic OD approaches in achieving production targets. High levels of productivity can be achieved only by designing and managing functions that focus on the relationships amongst employee performance, working environment, and the level of technologies used in producing goods and services. Strategic planning must be adopted in defining the vision and mission of the organization and developing action plans that assist the organization in focusing on its current and future resources for accomplishing its mission and vision. Team building has to be encouraged and Total Quality Management adopted by way of work process analysis, setting standards that can be measured, and adopting strategies to make the organization more cost-effective and more market-driven in aiming to achieve a zero-defect status (Burke, 1993, pp. 113-118).

However many organizations are unable to reap the benefits of OD interventions on account of several factors, major amongst them being a lack of commitment on the part of the management in taking appropriate risks and in implementing the measures with the required commitment. With increasing competitiveness and higher levels of effectiveness forming the basis of the corporate environment in the 21st century, senior managers are lacking in their commitment to appreciate the requirements of the business and the workers. They have not appropriately applied their mindsets in gaining market shares, exploring newer markets, enhancing operational effectiveness, and improving upon the financial performance of the organization. Upon examining these issues from a practical viewpoint the management needs to adopt an approach that includes innovative practices with minor risks. Only then can a reasonable return on investments be achieved. The fact remains that there is no magical means or any deterministic method to bring about innovations in any organization without providing a reasonable framework for risk of failure.

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Innovation is directly related to the approaches and attitudes of senior management and unless there is an appropriate corporate strategy to achieve the desired corporate goals, OD interventions will most likely prove to be without positive results. Senior management must focus, believe and demonstrate leadership skills in driving towards corporate goals. Once such an attitude is adopted the strategies, approaches, resources, and accomplishments will follow. Such measures require risks to be taken, albeit in a cautious way so that they are adequately watched upon and tracked until the desired objectives are achieved. Therefore, a reasonable amount of research is necessary for implementing specific OD interventions. The effect of such efforts will enhance the development of dedication on the part of the management and they will then focus on the corporate goals in the right perspective. It is to be noted that if the leaders do not emphasize the pertinent issues due to lack of knowledge and absence of appropriate strategies, the company will probably fail in getting the desired results from the OD interventions (Krabbenhoft, 2005).

All culture changes prove to be very challenging and outcomes don’t need to necessarily be the same as desired or foreseen by strategists. A classic change model would require that companies have a burning desire to change and a clear idea about how critical are the interventions seen for the benefit of the business. Most companies do not get naturally excited about using innovative techniques and do not view the interventions as being imperative for the company. There is no plan put in place for the systematic transformation and introduction to change. The tools and techniques of OD are implemented in a way that they do not appeal to the beliefs and values of employees (Cummings et al, 2008, pp. 341-346).

Most organizations are today averse to taking risks with the result that processes for new products and services often make the exercise ineffective save for some minimal and mediocre results. It is thus required to enable a culture that enables risk-taking and thence to reward the innovative practices. Most companies in today’s corporate culture believe in maintaining the status quo because they do not expect many benefits from the OD exercises nor do they have hopes of achieving far-reaching results from what they feel are capital and time-consuming exercises. Corporate innovative practices such as OD interventions tend to reduce during times that are economically good because people assume that such a good time is going to last forever. Every company has to face constraints and limitations but when OD interventions are discussed, such constraints and limitations are forgotten at least in terms of the concepts being extra big to focus upon and to put in actual practice. Since Organizational Development implies large changes they are not encouraged by top management and hence the interventions are implemented marginally (Bradford, 2005).

Most of the top management devotes their maximum time for business representations and human relations with important associates and stakeholders, and work related to OD interventions is passed on to managers, but such practices are not in keeping with doing justice to innovative OD practices and interventions. Just having a broad viewpoint and a general awareness is not sufficient to bring about improvements in the overall business of the organization. Individual roles are mostly not well assigned in bringing about the required reforms. OD interventions are not implemented with the motive of making employees feel safe while making the given experiments. The measures must come with the willingness of people to express and test themselves in an environment and community that provides genuine feedback. In bringing this kind of culture leaders must become self-assured, exhibit openness, be flexible and show a genuine interest in the development of people. Fear has to be avoided because it curbs creativity and is a big enemy of creativity and innovativeness.

List of References

  1. Anderson Donald, (2009), Organization Development: The Process of Leading Organizational Change, Sage Publications
  2. Bradford David L, (2005), Reinventing Organization Development, Pfeiffer, Burke Warner W, Organization Development: A Process of Learning and Changing, 1993, Reuters Prentice Hall, pp. 113-118
  3. Cummings Thomas and Worley Christopher, Organizational Development and Change, 2008, South-Western College Pub, pp. 341-346
  4. Krabbenhoft Alan, A Model for Strategy and Organization Development Interventions, Journal of Academy of Business and Economics, Issue: 2005,
  5. Neilsen, (1984), Becoming an OD Practitioner, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, CA, pp. 2-3, 113
  6. Pasmore William & Woodman Richard, (2007), Research in Organizational Change and Development, JAI Press
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