Organizational development is the ability to build healthy and high-performance organizations, and to successfully manage change.
The concept might seem simple enough, but experts say leaders sometimes forget the fundamentals.
“Organizational development is literally the field for the times,” said Donald Warrick, professor of management and organizational change at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ College of Business. “In times of dynamic, nonstop, unrelenting change — the ability to build healthy high performance organizations and managing change will determine the competitive advantage and even the survival of most firms.”
Yet few leaders appear to have an awareness of organizational development.
“Consequently, 70 percent or more of organization changes fail,” Warrick said.
Even when leaders do the right things, they’re likely to fail if it’s done the wrong way, he said.
“So, training leaders in the fundamental principles of organizational development can have an immediate payoff for the company, the teams and people working within the company,” Warrick said.
Organizational development primarily focuses on developing four things — high impact leaders, gold-collar workers, high-performance teams and world-class organizations.
High-impact leaders have emotional intelligence and know how to manage change. They model civility in the workplace by treating people right.
Gold-collar workers are those at any level who have been trained to be highly competent, up-to-date and are willing to champion the necessary changes, he said.
And high performance teams are the byproduct of individuals who have been trained to collaborate.
“One of the hallmarks of organizational development is to start with developing people, then teams and teamwork within and between teams, and then throughout the organization,” Warrick said.
As for world-class, “If you can define it, then you can build it,” Warrick said. “Define what world-class is (for your company). Create a simple process to get there and involve people throughout the organization to get there.”
Locally, Leadership Pikes Peak offers training programs that encourage people to become leaders in the community. But many of the skills that help people with their community leadership are also necessary in a corporate environment, said Susan Saksa, executive director of LPP.
“In our curriculum, we do a lot of things to help people understand their own leadership style — their strengths and weaknesses — and how to effectively work with teams,” Saksa said.
And as leadership styles shift from command-and-control to interconnectedness, effective team building becomes even more important.
Ideally, “we envision a leader as a convener — someone who is constantly inviting others to the table — not a top-down style,” Saksa said.
Research has shown that a company can perform two to 10 times the industry average by implementing organizational development. And this can be accomplished without massive hiring or firing or a significant financial investment.
So, why don’t more companies do this?
Leaders and executives are not trained in organizational development, Warrick said, and rewards are usually based on individual performance — not for the process of “building” a high-performance organization.
For any change to be effective, the CEO and top leadership teams must be committed to the process, first.
Not training leaders in organizational development is “like building a house on sand,” Warrick said. “The foundation is weak, so it will eventually collapse.”