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Perry Timms: Why OD is the Saviour of a World of Work in Flux

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I’ve been describing myself as an ‘HR practitioner’ for 16 years now, the last 7 of which as a freelancing consulting advisor type.

When people in and around the professional field say ‘What do you do then?’ I tell them ‘the nearest thing to what I do is OD’. Because it is – Organisation Design; Organisation Development (and Organisation Effectiveness).

I work within a lot of the parameters that are set for OD/D/E. Systemic application of theories that improve an organisation through design/deployment and modelled interventions that bring about sustainable, lasting and impactful change.

You can describe OD in a myriad of ways; which is both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing which is part of the worship of OD as a concept above all other – aka The Cult of OD – and a curse where there is a misunderstanding or even a total lack of awareness of the power bank that is OD.

I am not attempting to expose the cult, nor declare that OD has arrived and will be mainstream wherever we look. It isn’t there yet.

What I feel very confident in doing though, is positioning OD as a tool of salvation in work. A saviour from misaligned effort; toxic cultures and non-responsive systems that jeopardise the success of a business venture or organisation.

For this is where OD comes into its own: With people who know what OD is capable of doing in the situations it is most needed, and not to just rely on problem-solving at point. Creating a genuine process of investigation, forensics, analysis and deduction that identifies where there is a ‘blip in the Matrix’ (aka a fault in the system).

It isn’t just about fixes of course – but there are often design flaws leading to things being redesigned or redacted – it is also about pre-emptive and responsive change, which is possibly where OD is right now more than ever.

For at the heart of most if not all forms of organisation-wide change, sits Organisation Design and Development. And sadly still, many change programmes I’ve been associated with in the past, rarely, if ever, had anything more Organisation Design/Development about them than an org chart reconstituted.

Set up more like a super-sized implementation project and not a full-blown variety of design and test-based streams of work, an overly programmed and simplistic view of change appears to centre on Comms and not much else. Some movements of people and reporting lines. Frankly, some of the most underwhelming and unsophisticated plans that fail to deliver the desired or possible outcomes.

As a Change Management technique, OD wouldn’t let you do it this way. Of course, you have to know about OD in order to use it in a Change environment, so it’s hardly the fault of the Change Leader who doesn’t know OD.

And once you know OD, it isn’t a solution looking for a problem. It’s a series of very flexible, adaptable and ultimately useful diagnostic, modelling and solution creating tools and theories.

So is it the saviour I boldly predicted in the title to this piece?

When applied with good intellect, intuition and instinct, it is probably the most useful lens to look at change. Organisation Design, Development and Effectiveness forming some business-related holy trinity to build the places where people do their best work; where the learning agenda is beyond mere compliance and into outright discovery and exploration; and where the performance measures are rich, multi-faceted and beyond pure economics.

OD is a saviour of a world of work in flux, because it is built for flux; it thrives on flux and it channels the energy of flux like the Back to the Future DeLorean car’s capacitor.

You want your organisation to go (back) to the future? You need OD within you, about you and for you.