The organizational development process is an action research model designed to understand known problems, set measurable goals, implement changes, and analyze results.
Organizational development has been something that many businesses have taken seriously since at least the 1930's. Like many other process improvement methodologies, the organizational development process takes advantage of a circular set of steps that can be repeated in order to make changes, test them out, and then adjust further until the desired results have been achieved.
Organizational Development Process Cycle
This process will begin when a problem is identified. This system can be used to make improvements on just about any situation or problem that a business faces. It is a broad set of steps that are easily understood, and provide companies with the ability to quickly make changes in an attempt to solve issues. Once the changes are made, they can be evaluated to see if the problem was resolved, and if not, it will continue through the development process.
This process runs through the following steps:
- Problem Identification - A problem can be identified in a wide-range of ways including reports from employees, data gathering, and more.
- Situational Assessment - Making a formal assessment of the situation is the next step. This can be done by reviewing documentation, holding focus groups, interviewing, surveying, or just about anything else. Gathering all the facts related to the problem at hand is important for developing an effective solution.
- Action Planning - Making a plan of action on how the problem will be solved is the next step. This should be done by incorporating input from all impacted parties so that a solution that addresses the specific problem at hand can be found. In many cases, this will be the longest step in the process.
- Implement Plan - Taking the plan made in the previous step, and putting it into action. Depending on the complexities of the change, this may include training and other steps needed to ensure the action plan is put in place correctly.
- Gather Data - As soon as the change is put in place, it is time to start gathering data. This should be done with a focus on identifying whether or not the changes made are having a positive impact on the problem at hand.
- Analyze Results - Looking at the data that is gathered to see if it improved the problem, eliminated the problem, did nothing to the problem, or made the problem worse. In addition, watching to see if the changes had any secondary, negative, impacts on other issues is also done here.
- Get Feedback - Gathering feedback from all impacted parties is also important. If the problem is eliminated, but it increases the risk of injury for employees, for example, then it wasn't a good solution.
- Repeat - If necessary, the process will be repeated. If the changes made had some positive impact, then the process will begin with the current system in place. If they didn't, it may be beneficial to go back to the original way things were done in order to reevaluate.
By following through these steps, a company can make significant improvements in a very orderly fashion. They will also be able to track the changes that are made in order to have real data when it comes to finding solutions to problems.
Having access to this data not only helps to ensure problems are objectively solved, but it can also help to find solutions to other issues more quickly. If another department is facing a similar problem, the data and strategies used can be applied. This can help to cut back on the length of time it takes to address many types of issues.
Engaging the Process
The organizational development process can be quite similar to many other process improvement systems that are out there. Some people compare it to a Kaizen event, for example. While there are certainly similarities, they aren't the same.
This system can actually take advantage of other process improvement methodologies while it is being used. Choosing what type of solution to use when going through the process is one of the most important things that can be done.
If a company is attempting to transition to lean manufacturing, the organizational development process can be used to identify areas of waste, and then help to eliminate them. This is a very effective way to accomplish specific tasks that will contribute to a large goal.
Focusing on the Whole Organization
One thing that sets the organizational development process apart from many other systems is that it can help make improvements throughout a company. The problems that are identified can exist anywhere in a business. Many times it will involve a procedure being done on the front line, but it could also be used to fix an issue at the executive level.
Even in conflict resolution situations, the strategies used in the organizational development process can be taken advantage of. Having a good, logical system like this in place at a company will go a long way toward setting the environment up for success.
Getting Everyone Involved
In order to get the most possible out of this process, everyone in the organization should be involved. When it comes to identifying a problem that needs to be solved, it doesn't matter whether the report of the issue came from the CEO, or the entry level employee. Ideas for solutions should also be sought from all levels of an organization.
By taking ideas from everyone, it is more likely that the best solutions to problems will be found. Another benefit is that employees are more likely to accept changes when they know that they had a hand in developing the changes in the first place.
Ensuring Improvements are Kept
One common issue many companies have when they try to make improvements to their process is that while it works for a time, people often fall back into old habits. For the organizational development process to be effective, it is necessary to take steps to prevent this from happening.
There are many ways that this can be done, and the proper methods to use will depend largely on what types of changes are being made. If the change is related to making sure employees are always wearing the proper personal protection equipment, it can be helpful to put up signs and other visual communication tools in the areas where they are needed. This type of effort will help ensure the benefits remain in place long into the future.