Architect showing new house project

Organizational development – OD for short – is a term that I’m not sure many business leaders fully understand. Outside of a training and development or human resources context, OD can take the form of broad mandates or ideas around general improvement in the way an organization runs. But, in reality, OD takes into account every facet of human capital development, from strategic planning to leadership development to team building to communication and productivity enhancement.

What does it take to bring OD into a more realistic, actionable framework that connects HR with the business end of an organization? People and profits should be the result of organizational development strategies and initiatives, but there is a disconnect for many organizations—according to an article from HR Industry group,

“According to the research, OD initiatives which are perceived to be of high value to the organization and individuals in the organization, and which survey respondents would similarly like to place future investments in, are not seeing a similar measurable financial return.”

The blame for the disconnect between OD and the bottom line goes to HR as well. “What this may suggest is that organizations, and those people typically responsible for OD initiatives, may not fully understand and/or appreciate the financial implications of the various initiatives,” said research author David Baspaly, Ph.D. & CMC, Principal of Infocus Management Consulting.

To combat this little problem, look at organizational development in a new way; and staying with the viewing theme, we’ll call it “OD in 3D.”

1. Design: Connecting OD initiatives into the business in new ways requires a design parameter that is integrated and purposeful. Organizational development truly starts with organizational design—finding the right people and foundations for success to connect with your strategic organizational goals and objectives.

2. Drive: OD has to be way of thinking that permeates all elements of a company and must be driven by leaders across broad functional categories. Organizational development is not solely a function of HR, but instead must be integrated into the way that all leaders from the CEO on down think about the organization’s vision, strategies, goals, marketing, profits and more. Drive also needs to come from the on-the-ground OD implementers, like HR business partners, training and development, and mid-management.

3. Dynamics: Dynamics of the work environment and the way that people communicate, work in teams and function on a daily basis is what keeps OD moving. It’s what puts organizational development in a clear context and a top-of-mind focus. When OD is designed for success and driven by organizational leadership, the dynamics of the way teams, individuals, and departments actually work together is what will keep development happening. Putting employees together in beneficial ways, by accentuating the way they think, behave, and communicate, will place OD in a realistic and measurable context.

OD is difficult. OD can be a vague goal at times. But when done in the right way, OD is at the core of every business.

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