What is Organisational Development (OD)?
“Organisational Development” is a structured effort aimed at improving the performance of an organisation, department or work team. OD is an ongoing activity or effort to improve performance through a continual focus on skills, culture and the application of behavioral science. There are many views on OD; PMIS believes that if any organisation is looking to transform its performance, there are principles that can be translated into a programme or programmes of actions that will deliver real results.
Businesses often engage in improvement or change programmes, where it is expected that real improvement will result. The challenges in such efforts are very real, and the following approaches substantially improve the prospects of success:
- Stakeholders: early identification and engagement of stakeholders is often mentioned but rarely carried out fully – i.e. look for conflicting needs and agendas and risks to the goals of the effort – they will be there, always.
- Communication: communicate the big-picture (current and future state) in the most simple and clear way and avoid using one-way communication methods (e.g. video, intranet and email) to introduce and re-enforce key messages or build commitment
- Results: are what matters – being able to identify and confirm outcomes that are of real value to primary stakeholders, is a key activity and is not always as obvious as we might assume – careful planning and validating the planned ‘outcomes’ with primary stakeholders is crucial.
- Manage the implementation: the delivery or achievement of the expected results must be managed formally – this means objective measures and a management process that reviews: progress; results; and issues.
- Resistance: all organisational change meets with differing levels of resistance – from minor to major. A substantial proportion of the effort (especially in planning) must be aimed at realistic and effective approaches to minimise and manage resistance. Again, early engagement is paramount.
Formal Organisational Development efforts may employ approaches such as “Systems thinking” – which embodies the following principles:
- Performance is the result of organisational effectiveness – the capacity for individuals to work together towards common goals with effective tools, processes and leadership.
- Organisations are complex and dynamic and are always made up of inter-relationships – any issues must be understood and addressed if real improvement is to be gained or to be sustainable.
- Team based working and learning.
Any improvement programme (that includes project management training) should be focused on specific improvement objectives. Wherever possible, in-house training programmes should be explicitly linked to Organisational Development aims, objectives and actions. In this context, all training programmes should have:
- Clear objectives (related to outcomes that the training is expected to achieve)
- Measures of performance relating to pre and post the training
- Managed Actions for all attendees following training and support.
Measures of performance realting to the training can relate to
- The effectiveness of the training from the delegate’s perspective
- Measures of the success of the learning – pre and post delivery
- The application of methods and processes in the actual workplace
- The impact of improved methods, practices, skills or behaviours.
In addition to the above, common measures such as:
- written course evaluation and in particular the achievement of course objectives
- a formal assessment by attendees of whether the course met their needs and objectives.
Business Improvement (or OD) programmes should always contain managed actions for individuals and teams following training courses, as part of the wider OD programme. There should be clear visibility of whether these actions are being done.
There must also be clear measures to demonstrate whether performance is improving (in targeted areas) and formal structures to manage when measurable outcomes are not as planned and expected. Given the broad responsibility and goals of project management and variation by industry, measures need to reflect your industry and the breadth of issues you are aiming to improve, for example (many of which will be defined more specifically):
- accuracy of cost and schedule estimates;
- schedule performance;
- budget performance;
- quality measures;
- cycle times (relating to any key parameters);
- team performance (should relate to preferred practices than enable team performance).
Note: few of the above measure conformance to process – they measure the outcome in performance terms of processes etc.
All business improvement programmes should have:
- a structured inventory of planned outcomes and measurable benefits
- clear (individual) accountability for the achievement of all outcomes and benefits
- effective governance, particularly of the planning process
- clear plans for transition and a clear structure for managing benefits throughout the programme
- participative and strong leadership and Governance.
PMIS has an Executive Overview of: Developing Successful Business Improvement programmes and would be happy to work with you to deliver this to your organisation.
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