Rethink Organizational Development– Its Relevance in Modern Organizations: Embrace Transformative Change…

Organizational development (OD) is a strategically planned initiative to increase an organization’s relevance and viability… It’s a new ‘template’: An organization-wide effort to increase its effectiveness and sustainability. Organizational development is a lifelong, built-in systematic process of implementing effective organizational change…

According to Warren Bennis; OD is a response to change, a strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of an organization so that it can better adapt to new technologies, markets, challenges, and the dizzying rate of change itself… However in recent years, serious questions have emerged about the relevance of OD for managing change or reinvention in modern organizations…

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The efficacy of organizational development is predicated on the adaptability of the organization and the overall successful integration of new ideas and strategies within an existing framework. Resistance to change is a fundamental organizational problem as all organizations have a degree of general inertia… Caution is replaced with accelerated action related to organizational development trends, and companies are realizing that today’s workforce has changed.

The 21-century workforce represents new challenges, more flexibility, higher demands coupled with the lack of specialists and highly skilled workers. This means that trends in OD must change to align with the challenges of the 21-century workforce for both current and future organizational needs…

The 21st-century workforce is compromised of tech-savvy, flexibility demanding, highly collaborative and engaged talent… Companies are faced with adding– new, innovative organizational development capabilities to share knowledge, improve corporate learning and education capabilities and connect with talent… Recent organizational development surveys conducted with business leaders around the world identify a number of common themes and initiative trends. The research identified three critical trends that are driving the OD agenda in coming years: worker attraction and retention, worker development and engagement; management leadership and succession… 

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In the article Emerging Trends in Organizational Development by Jonathan Mozenter writes: As opposed to the past, organizations can no longer depend on what they do today to be successful tomorrow. Organizations are facing changes on many frontiers, such as; increased competition, more complex business models… According to James Champy; organizations are changing quickly, e.g.; internal processes are being redesigned, new opportunities and strategies are emerging, organizational structure and relationships are shifting… and as a result; new information technology, systems, infrastructures are required, and the work of managers and workers are changing and requiring new skills, behaviors, motivations…

Constant change is the new normal and it’s a derivative of many economic, competitive forces, e.g.; technology is linking the world in way that were unimaginable just a few years ago… which means that companies are not geographically confined– they have more opportunities as well as, increased competition in globalized markets.

Hence, companies must continually change to keep up with times… organizations must adapt by taking advantage of their core competency, or by merging and acquiring other companies, or by developing strategic partnerships… These type of disruptions create chaos, which in turn are a cause of constant change… In order for companies to stay competitive, they must also continually adapt their organizations to meet the ever-changing and evolving needs of their employees, customers…

Companies must deal with constant change by continually reinventing themselves– by using non-traditional business models, by using new distribution and marketing channels, by recruiting and training exceptional talent– by developing key business relationships to access necessary non-core competencies, capabilities… all of these important initiatives create an imperative for organizations to actively, effectively manage constant change…

Constant change not only influences companies on the organizational level; but it also has ramifications at employee level: Employees no longer just serve a singular function or role, rather many employees move from project to project to mirror the changes in the organization. This constant change often causes employees to seek job opportunities elsewhere– employees are more mobile and many stay with the same organization for just short-terms, as opposed to the traditional life-long employment were they are seeking job security: The number one priority for most organizations is– recruiting, retention, and development of critical talent…

Companies must cope with all the issues caused by constant change by being flexible and able to constantly adapt, they must empower employees, they must have a diverse workforce in order to compete in today’s world markets. Managers need to focus on how to develop strategy in times of uncertainty…

According to Howard H. Stevenson and Jeffery L. Cruikshank; management must be predictable to both their employees and  their customers in order to build trusting relationships. Employees must know what is expected of them. Customers need to know that they can depend on an organization to provide satisfactory products, services… However, management cannot assume permanence in their predictions, decisions; they give it their best shot, but also commit to a constant cycle of; observation, calculation, prediction, action…

However over the long run; decisions, predictions are a perpetual process of re-calibration, rethinking… albeit with deep roots… The major forces of change (i.e., changes in technology, changes in alliances and partnerships, changes in structure of work, increase diversity in the work force, shifting demographics…) set the stage for new thinking about the principles and practices of organizational development in modern organizations…

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In the article New Era of Organizational Development by Brett R. Joseph writes: During its short history, organizational development (OD) has maintained a predominant focus on whole system interventions that served purpose of aligning complex organizational structure, strategy, culture, processes to optimize organizational performance… This focus on alignment reflected the assumption that organizational problems are for, the most part, internally generated and that external factors constituting the organization’s competitive environment remained relatively stable over time…

At height of the industrial era, it was reasonable to assume that a one-time OD intervention targeted at achieving optimal alignment of the key components of; structure, strategy, culture and processes could place an organization on a path of sustainable growth… However in short period of single generation, world has changed in very profound ways and organizations are continually confronted change– change in technology, change in competition, change in markets, change in worker expectations… Today, organizations large and small must contend with unprecedented 21st century context of a knowledge world that is dynamic, ever-changing, fast-paced…

The prevailing context for organizational development is– knowledge driven, technology, global, boundary-less, intellectual capital-intensive, interdependent, and culturally and ideologically diverse… Yet, even within this novel context, many managers continue to operate within the old paradigm that seeks to optimize organizational functioning in the same way that one might fine tune a machine contained within a static box…

Today, new OD thinking is required; OD that challenges the outdated assumptions of a bygone era that are out of step with present conditions… OD’s specialized knowledge and skills that help organizations break free from the old mindset… To those organizations that have adopted new OD thinking, and embraced their reality as a complex social systems with multiple purposes (e.g.; social, environmental, economic…), driven by imaginative leaders, in the face of perpetual uncertainty in an ever-changing, chaotic environment– Yes, it’s about time…

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According to Fahri Karakas; organizational development is becoming fuzzy with more dynamic and trans-disciplinary components… for a given organization to thrive over the long-term within a knowledge rich and continuously changing environment, it must function as a community with the acquired capacity to take in new knowledge, adjust to changing circumstances while remaining centered on its core mission.

Organizations must function as learning communities, they must unleash hidden human potentials that allow them not only to effectively respond to external changes, but also align their activities with intelligence, passion, and the highest aspirations of their community members… The organizational hierarchies and centralized control structures of the past are no longer viable strategies, and a move towards more participatory governance structures require leaders to skillfully confront;

What Dr. Aleco Christakis refers to as the– ‘unshakable human burdens of dialogue’: The burdens include; limits of human cognition, group pathology, unequal power relations; and these  burdens or barriers prevent many well-intended collaborative efforts from attaining their organizational ideals… Despite these challenges, a rethinking of OD can facilitate a shift away from reliance on rigidly defined inter-personal relationships and structures, towards a greater reliance on common processes and shared skills that allow people with divergent world views to sustain a generative dialogue and co-creative learning…

As for future of organizational development there are contradictory opinions that vary widely among practitioners; but nevertheless, the continuing interest-in and value-of optimizing an organization’s– ‘needs and goals’ and with respect to the ‘needs and wants’ of employees, customers, partners, stakeholders… indicate that organizational development will continue to be relevant-to and vital-for, organizational reform, either in its present form or through the evolution of hybrid models and practices…

Successful organizations leverage people practices; they are collaborative and future oriented… Through OD, organizations have the potential to change culture, build capacity, achieve goals and purposefully manage challenges in an ever-changing world…