Jun 6, 2006

What is Organization Development (OD)?

After I posted about HR yesterday, I got some emails from some readers asking where OD fitted in HR and if I could write more about it.

Organization (or Organizational Development) is the discipline of viewing organizations and groups as systems and designing systems and processes to improve their productivity, effectiveness and output. Unlike HR where often the unit of analysis is the individual OD looks at the systemic and process issues much more deeply.

OD however as a 'function' does not fit very easily into typical organizational structures. This is because the effectiveness of a OD person is by being an outsider and questioning processes and practices that are done 'ritualistically' by organization. Internal OD people however are handicapped by either losing that perspective or being buried under organizational politics.

Internal OD resources however exist within HR and sometimes in Corporate Planning or Strategic Management groups. These people become saddled with the task of 'thinking'/designing corporate policies/training programs and increasingly become disconnected with reality.

A firm needs to take a call whether it needs OD in-house or chooses to call an external consultant whenever it needs one. It depends on the context, age, time, size and complexity of the organization and the level of maturity of its HR processes.

Most internal OD jobs have a big "Learning/Training" dimension built into them. But OD more than any other HR area can be tracked by "outcome metrics" rather than "input metrics" and some meatier OD jobs have performance management systems, competency mapping, key talent development, leadership development also on its agenda.

By the way, an interesting list of skills for the OD Consultant

Also read how Terrence became an OD guy