A definition of Organisational Development ‘O.D’

Understanding the term ‘O.D.’ or ‘Organisational Development can be tricky. Do you understand what the term ‘O.D’ really means? Everyone seems to know what we mean when we say ‘HR’ but the term ‘O.D.’ appears to be more ambiguous. The CIPD defines Organisational Development as: ‘a planned and systematic approach to enabling sustained organisational performance through the involvement of its people’.

This definition may cause further confusion! However, in simple terms, what we are talking about when we use the term ‘O.D.’ or ‘Organisational Development’ is about change. This could be a change of process. It could be a change in culture. It could be a change of people or skills. The important aspect to remember is that to conduct O.D. is about sustained and well-managed change. Well-managed change involves using an evidence based and structured approach. This may be about using certain recognised tools for analysis and/or using evidence from Behavioural Science research to inform our change.

It is also about being systematic and methodological when it comes to implementing change. You can read more about how to define an O.D. Strategy in our associated blog: O.D. Strategy in 5 easy steps.

Organisational Development

How does Organisational Development differ from HR?

CEO of Actus, Lucinda Carney, has a somewhat controversial view on this and we wonder if you would agree with it. She holds the view that HR could actually fit under O.D. Usually, they are seen the other way round and you may find that O.D. type activities are even conducted outside of HR. She believes that O.D. Directors should be sitting on Boards and that HR and Learning and Development where people-related initiatives are involved fit into it. Do you agree?

What is an ‘O.D. intervention’?

The types of activities that might fit in well with O.D. include changing the structure, skills or behaviours; essentially the cultural aspects within an organisation in order to achieve strategic goals. It may also involve looking at theory and practice, analysing how the organisation is currently working and looking at different cultural pockets of behaviour. It could also involve observing how certain aspects of an organisation are being more effective than others. An O.D. Consultant may then put into practice an intervention based on such findings. For example a leadership development programme, or a team activity to share skills across the organisation.

Examples of O.D. interventions

One example of an O.D. intervention could be working with both HR and the Business Planning Team to develop a new performance management process. The reason this sits with O.D. is because it is not about just getting better at doing an appraisal. It’s actually making something more effective in terms of meeting the organisation’s goals.

Another example could be analysing the feedback from exit interviews. You could then try to identify themes, test those themes out and see if they’re robust. For example, where there exists a high turnover due to poor inductions you might put in place training or systems.

Or, it could be job redesign, where the O.D. Consultant is working with a department to understand the shape of the roles required in the future. Maybe this is achieved by looking at the competition or by identifying what sort of skills people need in the future compared to what they have now. Then the next step would be helping them to define the roles and structure that are best going to support this.

The bottom line when it comes to O.D.

We have looked in some detail at what we mean by the term ‘O.D.’ and the role it can play within an organisation. The bottom line is, for an intervention to be done well, it must lead to a change in the business. Clearly, that is the case for all change and it’s a topic that Lucinda discusses in more detail as part of The HR Uprising Podcast series.

 Free Actus HR Resources

Demystifying O.D. Podcast







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