In our recent HR Executive Forum, a peer coaching community built by Suzanne Elshult of HRNow, some 20 or so of my peers and I explored “OD.” Two driving questions guided our discussions:
- What are the prevailing schools of thought around OD.
- Why should business leaders care about it?
I learned a lot from my peer HR Executives. Firstly, it was clear that OD does not have a straightforward meaning anymore. For that matter, I’m not certain that it ever did. It’s fuzzy. Certainly two widely recognized definitions were expressed amongst the group. For many, OD addresses the traditional boxes and lines form the org. chart of an enterprise. And to others, it refers to the development of a company’s effectiveness as it competes in the marketplace.
Wondering if there really is a well-recognized and widely used OD model, I took a moment to search the internet for the most common models out there. There are five common models: Galbraith’s Star Model (1960), Weisbord’s Six Box Model (1970s), Nadler and Tushman’s Congruence Model (1980), McKinsey’s 7S model (1980s), and Burke-Litwin Model (1992). By the way, search the internet and you’ll find that there are hundreds of models that exist.
The Galbraith “Star” model was widely recognized amongst our group as an effective structure for analyzing an organization’s effectiveness. It looks beyond the structure into alignment of polices and other levers that affect employee behavior. Since 1960, it has stood the test of time with books being written, and classes being taught about its theory and application.
Everybody agreed, however, that the “model” is strictly “eyes only” and top secret for Human Resources use. Attempts to educate the rest of the business on a framework of OD can be fruitless. For the rest of leadership, it’s less the journey than the destination. Just fix it! But we still know that it’s an organization-wide effort. This might be one reason for an emerging approach.
The latest trend in OD is “dialogical.” Sounds rather like HR mumbo jumbo to me. On the contrary! Dialogic Organizational Development means using open and ongoing conversation, or dialogue, throughout the organization. Through dialogue, leaders can elicit every day, common sense perspectives from the team, engage with their developing ideas, and learn ways to keep the company competitive in rapidly changing market conditions. Successful companies function as a community, where conversation is organic and dynamic; the way OD must be.
Dialogic OD has been around since the 1960s, but in the 80s it started to evolve and apparently is emerging as a more mainstream framework today. Learn more about it by searching the internet, or go to these links: “An Introduction to Advances in Dialogic Organization Development” at http://www.gervasebushe.ca/Intro_DOD.pdf or “Dialogic Organization Development” at http://www.dialogicod.net/.
Why should a company’s top brass care about OD? They shouldn’t. But I can’t help but want to shout: “you should care about OD because it’s THE biggest tool you have to evolve the company and drive results!” On a rational note, we should all be focused on our companies attaining success. Which means staying competitive and flexible in an ever-changing and evolving marketplace. HR knows that OD tackles change and we should care about OD for the rest of the leadership team.
As HR executives, we know that through OD, our organizations have the potential to change culture, build capacity, achieve goals and purposefully manage challenges in a dynamic environment. Regardless of the model, it’s the end goal that really matters: enabling a company’s effectiveness and helping it achieve success. We know that constant change is the new normal; HR and our tools must be nimble and “dialogical.” This forum helped me to re-think OD, and I left realizing I need to think even more about it.
Interested in re-thinking OD? Check out this article: http://bizshifts-trends.com/2015/01/07/rethink-organizational-development-relevance-modern-organizations-embrace-transformative-change