Best Practices in Organization Development


Best Practices in Organization Development

Nancy Zentis, 1-3-18

Some of today’s most important best practices in Organization Development provide organizations with successful change tactics to meet their critical goals while embracing partnerships, collaboration, commitment, accountability, encouragement, and innovation.  OD focuses on both sides of the business, the hard side – strategy, goals, process, systems, and structure and the soft side – culture, people, motivation, behavior, and leadership.  When practiced together, organizations achieve results.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors, Nitin Nohria, William Joyce, and Bruce Roberson state that organization development can help a company flawlessly execute change through action planning by using the OD approach to change – the Action Research Model (ARM).  ARM is a seven-step process that has been used by OD professionals for over 70 years to help organizations implement change.  An external or internal OD consultant meets with a senior leader to identify their needs and create a contract establishing roles, deliverables, cost, and timeline.  Once the contract terms are agreed upon, the consultant and client collect data to identify the root cause.  Based on the data, the client (senior leader and senior leader’s direct reports) and consultant determine the priorities and develop an action plan.  Once an action plan is developed and the goals are established, the consultant works with the team to help them create an implementation plan.  The consultant’s role is to coach, facilitate, observe, monitor, and provide feedback to help the organization to be successful and create an ongoing process for implementing change.

Several OD practices must be in place for the organization to achieve success when implementing change.

  1. Determine Client Readiness – Before engaging in the project, determine the client’s readiness. Are they willing to change or are they resistant, or hesitant to change?  Are they willing to partner with a consultant, are they able to deal with ambiguity, or do they seem unmotivated, and delay decision making?  Do they have the buy-in and agreement of their leader?  If the client is not ready, the consultant must try to determine the barriers and deal with the resistance.  You may have to provide some remedial consulting services to help the client prepare for the OD intervention.
  2. Gain Commitment – Building commitment is critical to gain the support and resources needed to implement the change, as well as ownership to sustain the change once it’s implemented. Gain senior leadership commitment by asking these critical questions – How important is the need to change?  Do you have the budget?  Do you own the problem?  Who else needs to be involved in making the decisions?  How will you gain accountability from other leaders to support and implement the change?  Who will support the change and be your advocate for the change implementation?
  3. Align to Strategic Goals – Another important practice is to determine if the OD change initiative is tied to the organization’s strategic goals. Ask the client for a copy of the strategic goals.  Ask the client which strategic objective is tied to the change or challenge. Determine what measurable outcomes are identified with the problem you are trying to solve.  If the problem or challenge is not tied to the strategic goals, ask to meet with the senior leader to add the problem or challenge to the strategic goals.  Remember, what gets measured gets done!
  4. Company Culture – The organizational culture and leaders must support, model and encourage employees to take responsibility for achieving organizational goals, and to solve problems and make decisions impacting their role. Senior leaders should encourage suggestions, feedback, creativity, risk-taking, innovation, and transparency to create a culture of openness.
  5. Organization Structure – Organizations that have implemented organization development practices have a structure that is flexible, fast and flat to allow the procedures within an organization to change when needed, according to employee progress. Organizations need to eliminate bureaucracy and practices that limit progress. The new structure developed for carrying out action plans should be realistic and doable for employees, customers, and vendors alike.
  6. Build a Solid Business Case – A business case is a well-considered, fact-based proposal advocating a specific course of action. The consultant helps the client to build the business case. The goal is to provide enough support to convince other leaders and employees of the importance of the change. Most business cases include the following:
  • An executive summary
  • A problem or opportunity statement
  • Rationale for the change
  • An overview of the proposal and considerations
  • Cost/ Benefits
  • Implementation Timeline
  • Assumptions and Risks
  • Actions and Next Steps
  • Conclusion and Recommendation
  1. Collect Feedback and Evaluate the Outcomes of The Change – During the OD change process and after the implementation, the consultant and client will collect data to evaluate the outcomes of the change. This process is a necessary application of OD principles, borrowed from the field of behavioral science.  First, you want to test the changes identified before launching them system-wide by collecting feedback from the groups involved in the change. Ask questions to determine their satisfaction, the effectiveness of the change. Ask participants what changed and which problems were solved? Did other problems emerge? Did leaders communicate, model and support the change?  Was training provided? Did the organization communicate the change clearly?  Did employees embrace the change? Was the change sustained after the initial implementation?

These are a few of the best practices to follow when using an Organization Development Approach to implement change and solve critical business challenges.  An OD professional is essential to help senior leaders implement change, as they have the background in the field of OD, understand the principles of the ARM Model, and possess the OD facilitation skills needed to orchestrate change.


Dr. Nancy Zentis is the Chief Strategist and CEO of Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and Professional Development Skills for ongoing learning.  As a consultant in the field of OD for many years, she has developed Talent Management and Leadership Development Strategies for many leading organizations.  She can be reached at

Institute of OD (IOD) offers online Organization Development Certification Programs to help participants gain skills to advance their career in the field of OD.  If you are new to OD, you will benefit from the OD Process Consulting Certification Program (ODPC).  If you have been in the field for several years but lack formal OD training, the Organization Development Certification Program (ODCP) will provide you with the tools and skills needed to advance in the field of OD. Each program provides 24 HRCI credits.

For more information about our other certification programs and professional development webinars, visit our website

To join our Global OD Network, click here:


Get updates and learn from the best


1 2 3 5 6