Organization development leaders: creating organizational value

Your organization is probably like all other organizations. It is continuously searching for ways to add value to its products and services in order to keep growing. Organization development leaders are in a key position to help their executives think through what both 'growth' and 'value' are and how to add them.

Effective and healthy organizations see value in more than just meeting the business goals. It is not enough to concentrate on, for example, financial performance, if it is at the expense of employee well-being. Value needs to be fostered and developed in all organizational aspects: people, process, structures, systems, behaviors and governance. 'Growth' is usually equated with size – organizations get bigger, extend their markets, products and services. But growth can be in other dimensions. An organization can, for example, stay small in size but grow its thought leadership so it becomes known for that. Alternatively it can grow its capacity to retain and develop its people, maintain customer loyalty, or introduce environmentally friendly practices – all adding value without becoming bigger in size.

Creating organizational value and growth is done partly through designing and implementing methods of developing workforce capability which Dave Ulrich , Professor of Business as the University of Michigan, defines as the firm's ability to manage people to gain competitive advantage.

As with many researchers and writers in the field Ulrich believes that it's your people that make you the winner or loser in your market. He says

Merely hiring the best people does not guarantee organisational capability. Hiring competent employees and developing those competences through effective HR and OD practices, underpins organisational capability. (Ulrich, D. (1991). Organisational Capability: Creating Competitie Advantage. Academy of Management Executive. Vol 5. No. 1)

Traditionally capability has been developed through formal training programs, coaching, mentoring, and sometimes things like job placements, and project work. Now these traditional methods are not working and are not enough. This for six significant reasons:

1. Technology advances mean that information is easily accessible and does not have to come from an 'expert'.
2. Collaborative technologies mean that knowledge sharing can be achieved in numerous different ways.

3. Organizational relationships with their stakeholders are changing – employees and customers are not passive players but are actively collaborating in creating shared value.

4. People's expectations about how, when, and where to develop their personal capability is changing – there is much more learning from each other and again less reliance on 'experts'.

5. Organizations have to be constantly adaptive and agile. Capability development must drive continuous change not respond to it

6. There is increasing understanding that organization development is more than 'training'. "It involves adopting principles and attitudes, which in turn determine and guide behavior. It is a way of thinking as well as acting".

OD leaders need to respond to each one of the six reasons above in a way that develops value and growth capability in their organizations. They can do this by taking the six following actions. Each of the actions listed offers some suggestions in how to do this.

1. Role modeling new personal capability development approaches via self-driven learning
a. Suggestion 1: Take or lead an on-line webinar and then use a technology to tell your colleagues what you learned.
b. Suggestion 2: Use the internet to find out 10 things you didn't know about your organization's industry
c. Suggestion 3: Set up an on-line forum with your workgroup to develop your joint skills on a particular topic. (Make it for a defined period, say six weeks, and then review what you've learned).

2. Equipping managers to engage their people through collaboration, participation, and involvement.
a. Suggestion 1: Ask the manager to pose a problem that needs solving to his workgroup and work with him to involve the whole group in solving it.
b. Suggestion 2: Establish an informal, frequent feedback process where workers can comment on work issues
c. Suggestion 3: Help managers have collaborative conversations with their staff on goal setting and performance standards. (Rather than the managers setting goals and standards for staff)

3. Initiating conversations with business executives on the future of the organization – what it might be and how to prepare for it – using five themes proposed by Dave Ulrich

Outside-in Connection
Strategic Unity

a. Suggestion 1: Set up webinars on the topics and run a monthly series – following the Google model described above.
b. Suggestion 2: Invite key executives to meet with staff in a collaborative discussion on each of the themes.
c. Suggestion 3: Have key executives meet as a group and assess how the organization could improve capability in each of the themes.

4. Bringing working and learning together in a powerful way, to embed a development culture and to create more value through and with people.
a. Suggestion 1: Encourage managers and staff to have weekly conversations on what they have learned that week
b. Suggestion 2: Allow people to try out new ways of doing their work and capturing what they are learning as they do that.
c. Suggestion 3: Set up a communications channel 'Did you know?' that provides information on what's going on in the organization and asks people to comment on it.

5. Designing adaptive organizations that handle continuous change through resilience and agility
a. Suggestion 1: Assess the design of your organization (or part of it). See if there are misalignments and correct them.
b. Suggestion 2: Review policies and procedures and see if any of them are outdated and/or could be discarded.
c. Suggestion 3: Pay attention to trends and competitive forces operating outside your organization and plan your responses to them.

6. Removing the barriers between individual and organizational goals using powerful virtual feedback software tools. Rypple is one example of these. (see
a. Teach people how to give and receive performance feedback in a helpful and non-threatening way
b. Examine your career paths and ensure they allow lateral as well as upward mobility – match individual career and development goals with talent and succession planning
c. Publish organizational goals and hold conversations with staff on their individual contributions and accountabilities to achieve these.

As an OD leader, you can add value to your organization by agreeing what growth and value are in your organization, knowing the reasons why traditional approaches to capability development for growth and value won't work now, and taking the actions to develop organizational capability.