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A definition of Organization Development

Organization Development (OD) is the work of facilitating organisational success, by aligning structural, cultural and strategic realities of work to respond to the needs of an ever-evolving business climate. This involves facilitating a deep connection between the best business processes and structures on the one hand, and the people working within the organization on the other. In short, it is to create great organisations!

Organization development as a displine has evolved in a way that is true to to its heritage.  In our OD Practitioners Programme we explore over twenty definitions as part of our mapping of the field.  What we say here brings together the common themes, but it isn’t a definitive answer and we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

What’s the difference between culture change, business transformation and organization development?

Organization development sits centrally between culture change and business transformation. Arguably Organization Development is the most researched and refined way to achieve culture change or transformation.
Culture change tends to focus on the behavioural norms, values and unique personality of an organisation as expressed through its people. Business transformation usually aims to include a wider range of elements such as structure, process and even vision and mission as well as perhaps culture. How often such transformation attempts succeed is hotly contested.

Great organization development is therefore more holistic than most culture change attempts and, arguably, more grounded in understanding how people work than most business transformation initiatives. OD seeks to ensure that the whole organization evolves as one, constantly. It seeks to facilitate organization design staying in sync with socio-political, economic, cultural, environmental and technical trends, whilst keeping the people that ultimately deliver the work fully engaged and motivated in delivering the product while also innovating and learning for further evolution.

What’s the difference between change management and organization development?

Change management might be viewed as a narrower and more tactical discipline of “seeing through the changes” and keeping things on track either from an HR perspective or in terms of the project management of a change programme. Change management is used generically to talk about the process of leading an organisation through change.

Change management can conjure up the image of people being made to change, and change being imposed on people from the top of an organization. Whilst this may be the reality in many organizations, superior results may be achieved through adopting the more holistic methods, values and philosophy of organization development.

Is organization development better than business transformation, culture change and change management?

Organization development is a more complex and potentially more effective discipline for ensuring long term sustainability, as it seeks a path between the clinical world of CEO-driven transformation loved by stakeholders for its apparent simplicity and focus on the bottom line, and some of the softer approaches perceived to be the remit of HR and L&D teams, based around the equally critical people-based priorities of staff wellbeing, motivation, capability, retention, engagement and happiness.

Organizational development, organisational development, organization development and organisation development are all used interchangeably!

Mapping the field of organization development – watch our video

Programmes you can follow in OD:

OD Practitioners Programme

MSc in People and Organisational Development

Custom programmes

Need to talk about your organization and work out a bespoke organization development training plan? Get in touch today

Roffey Park is one of the world’s foremost leadership development centres with a specialisation in organization development. Find out more about our 70-year track record and some of our top client organizations and testimonials

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