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Organizational development is getting a lot of attention now, for a very good reason. Your organization is faced with continuous and pervasive change today. While your organization and its leaders have inevitably dealt with change throughout their careers, there is a difference today. Changes used to have lifecycles, making change management easier because there was a beginning and an end. That's not true today. Many companies are stumbling from one disruption to another as their managers and supervisors try to meet the flow of challenges. Even initiatives that seem to have a set timeframe are only successful when deployed within the context of the organization as a whole. It is difficult for leaders to step back and take a holistic, unbiased, and futuristic view of what is happening and what is needed for long-term sustainability.
Any planning done needs a strategic vision, and organizations need the ability to reimagine a new reality. However, organizational management is already trying to balance a full workload. In this era of change and the post-pandemic new economy, the organizational development consultant partners with leaders to develop a strategic mindset in which initiatives, structures, systems, and processes are evaluated and redesigned to assist the organization with constantly transitioning into the future where unknown continuous change awaits.
A good organizational development consultant works with your managers to develop a strategy that reflects your unique culture and values. By translating that understanding into an operating model, structure, and processes, a consultant can help you ensure your company meets the needs of all stakeholders even as progress is made toward an aspirational future version of your culture.
The words" aspirational future version" are key terms because they speak to the need to develop a vision and convert it into tangible results. As Jane Winge, Organizational Development Consultant at IRI Consultants, explains, "An OD consultant can think with a company to look at upcoming initiatives through the lens of strategy, people, technology, and processes." She also says, "It doesn't work when there is no executive partnership, no manager implementation, no/limited access to systems/tools/resources, an assumption only training is needed, and/or the consultant is brought in too late to be effective - firefighters vs. fire prevention." Preventing a problem is always better than trying to minimize the damage caused by a problem.
An organizational development consultant is a thought partner who considers all aspects of the human resource architecture, analyzes the situation to determine multiple tactics to achieve and reinforce the desired behavior/result, being proactive to create sustainability. Lead Consultant at IRI Consultants Cris Chouinard explains, "OD consultants start with the end in mind: what is it the client wants to achieve and how will success be measured? Are there organizational outcomes that management wants to improve? How can the data be used to measure the success of the engagement? For example, if you are looking to improve a particular process, where are you today and where do you want to be in the future -- what does success look like?" The consultant takes the time to understand the organization's situation, always thinking about the desired result and what it will take to execute the intervention.
Management faces a complex set of technologies, regulatory compliance requirements, and risks. Operating models need reinventing in many cases before the company can move into the future while continuing to capture full value. The transformation will involve a new approach that utilizes technologies for automating as much work as possible, building cross-functional systems, and reskilling and upskilling employees to ensure customer needs are met. Technology for the future also provides leaders with predictive analytics for improved decision-making.
The Institute for Organizational Development says this: "Organizational Development is an applied behavioral science that is focused on the organization as a system. OD is a process used to develop healthy, high-performance, self-renewing organizations and successfully manage change and can be used at all levels of an organization."
Though the definition speaks to systems, recognize the fact that organizational development consulting is about change in people and systems with the realization that one impacts the other. Change people to produce better performance and more satisfaction with things like employee voice and systems improvement. Change organizational systems, and people must change also. The consultant can address a wide range of areas that include but are not limited to the following.
The OD consultant is a skilled problem solver with excellent communication skills who can work with leadership to:
The basic process is identifying the need, diagnosing the problem through a variety of data collection methods (i.e., employee surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.), designing an intervention plan, implementing the intervention, and evaluating results to determine if they achieve the purpose and determining if the change process will remain effective into the future.
The OD consultant can analyze where the organization is now and where the organization wants to be and develop the path to reach the goal. However, the consultants' work is always focused on sustainability. If the goal is to increase employee engagement or strengthen positive employee relations, the
Organizations often have communication gaps. A top reason employees decide to join a union or leave the company is because they believe they have no employee voice. No matter what the organizational development consulting project assignment involves, addressing communication, breaking down communication silos, and aligning employee communication with company goals will be an element of the effort. Creating a culture of change depends on leadership transparency and honesty, giving employees opportunities to express their voice, feedback, and clear lines of contact.
To deliver the best recommendations, the organizational development consultant will learn as much as possible about the current company culture. This includes identifying how the systems, departments, and functional areas work together and where problems exist. The roadmap for change will concentrate on aligning strategy, processes, and people to optimize organizational effectiveness. Inevitably, this effort is centered on communication improvement.
IRI Consultant Jane Winge shares a successful development process. Notice the focus is on focus on improving communication by addressing leadership communication and giving employees a voice.
IRI Lead Consultant Cris Chouinard shares a success at a healthcare organization, saying, "When both the consultant and client establish that "all in" attitude, the results can be astounding: 20 years maintaining a direct connection with employees; engagement scores jumping from below the American benchmark to achieving "preferred employer" results within two years; improving patient satisfaction scores, higher reimbursement; reducing ER patient flow to achieve consistent 11 am discharges and more. Building stronger relationships between employees and employers has kept third-party representation at bay for more than five years."
There are numerous key benefits of hiring an organizational development consultant. The consultant:
The specific benefits an organization accrues depend on the reason the consultant was hired and the scope of the project.
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Considering a consultant's proven track record is important, of course, but it is not enough. You need to do due diligence first involving your organization. It's the only way to understand your needs and the type of organizational development consulting needed. Ask yourself questions like:
Getting to the bottom of issues like retention, culture change, and change management is challenging enough. Not having the buy-in and support of the organization's stakeholders can cripple progress.
A successful OD consultant should be "all in" and willing to roll up the sleeves and help management do the work needed. "I've seen many "seagull consultants" over the years -- they come in squawking and flapping, make a mess and leave. You want to know you have a partner in your endeavor," says IRI Lead Consultant Chouinard. Following are some features to look for in a consultant or consulting team.
One drawback to hiring a consultant is that it does take time to get the lay of the land, and inevitably, there is resistance: "why do we have to meet? I don't have time? We tried to fix this before; how is this outsider going to help?" If you do not have strong sponsorship for the leadership team, the consultant's work will stall, costing precious time and resources. Consultants need to be seen as a partner and not a nuisance. If you have in-house OD expertise, they must be included in the upfront discussion. It is very uncomfortable for all involved to be engaged with a client who hasn't gained buy-in from their in-house team.
The client has to be all in too! It doesn't work when there is no executive partnership, no manager implementation, no/limited access to systems/tools/resources, assumption only training is needed, brought in too late to be effective, etc. OD consultants are not firefighters. They are fire preventers. When both the consultant and client establish that "all in" attitude, the results can be astounding, such as the results found in the large healthcare organization mentioned above.
Honestly, there is always a risk the organizational development consulting process will not produce the desired results. That is why it is so important to carefully select who you work with because much effort is put into the analysis process.
Organizational development consultants are partners with their clients. When goals are met, organizations are better prepared to meet future challenges. The prediction is that the business environment will remain in a state of disruption for many years. Ensuring your organization is prepared to successfully manage continuous change is the key to sustainability.