Recently, this blog published an article about the nature and definition of Organizational Development (OD). Based on experience for the past two decades, it is clear that OD, like many processes and systems, is often misconstrued by even the best-intentioned leaders into something that it is not. Taken on a grand scale, this has likely created some misunderstandings and myths. This article deconstructs some common myths around OD.
OD is NOT Human Resources
Because OD concerns itself with the human element of any organization, it is naturally construed with traditional Human Resources. From the perspective of gaining a foothold within companies where traditional thinking predominates, this is not a bad idea of itself. More holistically, however, the HR is actually a subset of OD, rather than the other way around. It is a myth that OD is a sub-discipline under HR, in reality the opposite is both more accurate and more operationally effective.
OD is NOT Organizational Design
Although it is easy enough to see why some would make this mistake (especially given the same initials of “OD”), it is important to note that, like HR, Organizational Design is only one aspect of the more holistic view of Organizational Development. Designing the organization to optimize both the workflow and the people’s ability to contribute to the best of their abilities is one of the tactical aspects of OD, but far from the entire scope. Practitioners of Organizational Development work with business leaders to design the most effective framework against which to build organizational capacity and individual capabilities.
OD is NOT Lean Thinking
Lean has its own identity problems (refer to the video at the end of our Process Improvement Service page), having been well and thoroughly misconstrued and misapplied almost since its’ inception. A deeper discussion of what Lean Thinking really means is beyond the scope here, but it is important to note that the two systems can be applied in very complementary ways. Even allowing for the opportunities that exist for operating them in tandem, Lean and OD are separate and distinct. Look for a return to that discussion in a future blog.
OD is NOT Training & Development
This seems to be the most common misconception regarding the nature of OD. It is not unreasonable; Training is a tangible product that carries with it an assumption of activity and result. Many T&D leaders use the two phrases interchangeably, which only underscores the confusion. To be clear, here is the distinction: T&D is an output of OD. Good training and development results from Organizational Development being applied effectively and holistically. As with Lean, the two processes are quite complementary, but are not interchangeable, despite what many may say.
Organizational Development is a tremendous opportunity for any leadership team to put real impact behind high-minded concepts of growth mindsets and dynamic culture.
Overcoming and dispelling some of these easily accepted myths and misconceptions is a necessary first step to building a holistic and effective organization. Particularly in 2021 and beyond, with the world of work becoming a new and challenging frontier, good OD practices will be powerful differentiators for success.
Author Terry Smith is a senior Human Resources leader, specializing in Organizational Development, as well as strategic and operational change management.