Organizational Development, or OD, has been around in various forms, under various names, for decades. As a discipline, it encompasses many of the mechanisms of traditional Human Resources and operates them in a holistic approach to the overall success of the organization. Where HR has often stopped short of engaging at the level of the entire business, however, OD works throughout the entire ecosystem to develop an intentionality around the business whose success depends fundamentally on the growth and development of the people whom it employs.
OD works throughout the entire ecosystem to develop an intentionality around the business whose success depends fundamentally on the growth and development of the people whom it employs.
This context is a necessary backdrop to the success of Agile teams. By its nature, Agile depends on a level of intentional decision-making for its very existence. The shift to Agile is not a gradual change, or an evolution by default; it is a determined and willful step into a challenging and opportunistic means of execution.
Companies that shift to Agile must bring a high degree of discipline to the work. Making it stick involves layers of decisions up and down the chain of command. Merely determining which decisions belong at what levels is itself a rigorous exercise. OD can provide organizational assessment practices and gap analysis tools to arrive at these decisions more quickly, and with greater certainty.
Agile work teams require the right skills and abilities be quickly and easily identified and nurtured. Often, Agile work includes the premise of branching into areas where the company may not have previously operated and will likely require corresponding upskilling to adjust to the new requirements. Agile requires more than just skill sets, however; not every perspective on every team is ideally suited to making the change to an Agile model.
OD, properly engaged and applied, can provide both the necessary discipline around closing skill gaps and accelerating capacity, and the feedback loops that determine which teams should be working in Agile or not. Through means such function-wide competency matrices and behavioral assessments, OD helps to surface perspectives, identify issues, and engage proactively to ensure the right people on the team are working in the right roles in an Agile environment, and do so more quickly than by traditional trial and error. OD can also provide the independent analysis of capabilities and apply Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to align team member professional growth with organizational goals and objectives.
Agile and OD naturally complement each other. Agile reinforces that leaders continually review, evaluate, assess, and adjust their processes and approaches. OD reinforces the same “retrospective” philosophy, particularly in terms of how they apply coaching and development to the people on their teams. Leaders in Agile, more than any other business process, are required to take the “Big Picture” view of the work as it impacts the organization and the people.
Leaders in Agile, more than any other business process, are required to take the “Big Picture” view of the work as it impacts the organization and the people.
OD is the mechanism to arrive at these broad-based and long-term decisions, by informing leaders with the holistic information and context of the entire work system as well as the intricacies of team dynamics that are necessary for sustained success in a sprint-based approach. Agile is a cornerstone change in the way in which work is executed, and Organizational Development is the lynchpin for how the organization assimilates and maximizes the change.
Agile is a cornerstone change in the way in which work is executed, and Organizational Development is the lynchpin for how the organization assimilates and maximizes the change.
Author Terry Smith is a senior Human Resources leader, specializing in Organizational Development, as well as strategic and operational change management.