What are the Future Challenges for OD?

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In this day and age, as OD professionals we will face many new challenges due to the global covid pandemic, changes in the workplace culture, and global environment.  The field of Organization Development is based on the field of Behavioral Science and is concerned with the social systems within an organization. Our role as OD Professionals is to help organizations to address the need to change and help them find sustainable solutions. Our process relies on cooperation and commitment from members of the senior leader team and feedback from members within the organization.  Some of the future challenges for the field of OD is dealing with culture change and leading complex change initiatives.

Culture Change

Culture change is one of the biggest changes organizations are seeing today, this began with the onset of the covid pandemic. As a result of office closures, many employees began working from home remotely, which sparked a massive shift in the work culture. This caused a major shift for employees as they had little time or guidance to quickly transform their lives and adjust to working at home. New tools such as video conferencing, workflow tools, and better technology for communication allowed employees to work effectively from the comfort of their own home. Some employees quickly adjusted to working remotely and found innovative ways to manage their work-life balance, while others had difficulty adjusting to the isolation and social structure that is accompanied with working from home, away from colleagues and leadership.

Increasingly more organizations are using a humanistic approach. The role of OD is to organize dialogue sessions using Appreciative Inquiry and Dialogic OD techniques in order to gain insight into how their employees experience the current culture within their organization. Instead of forcing culture on people, creating a culture fit is critical for organization success. To create values alignment, leadership must identify individual values of all the organization members using a Values Assessment to identify the top values and significance for every individual. As a result, this helps to provide a more detailed and accurate understanding of the importance of each value. When organizations align their values with their strategy and culture by creating values alignment, they will substantially improve employee engagement, retention, inclusion, equity, higher impact and lower turnover.

Leading Complex Change

Another challenge facing OD in 2023 is leading complex change. Organizations expect to multiply the number of change initiatives and are aware there is a vast amount of complex change issues. However, as research shows, most change efforts fail and only 34% are successful. Why is this happening?  Without a clear process for change, leadership buy-in, accountability, commitment, employee involvement and help from a change agent, most change efforts unfortunately fail. 

Three things must be in place for change initiative to be successful:

  • Client focused
  • Problem centered
  • Action oriented

The Action Research Model provides a scientific approach to lead major change initiatives and is based on years of research.  An OD Professional helps the client to plan and lead the change and guides them through the 7-step process while providing training to create change leadership and modeling the OD Mindset.  OD professionals will use many dialogic tools to gain buy-in and commitment, build trust, build collaboration, deal with conflict and challenges, and overcome resistance to change.  In a sense, they act as an OD Learning Coach while guiding the change process.

Another big challenge facing OD is helping organizations to create a fair, equitable, and diverse work environment.  With an increase in racial violence and civil unrest, the Me Too movement, and complaints from workers about lack of inclusiveness and equity in the workplace, Leaders and HR Directors have expressed deep concern and began to examine their own organization’s DEI programs. Eager to know how they compare to other organizations; they declare their philosophy regarding diverse practices and values.  However, putting long term effort into changing the culture takes an extensive amount of effort and work.  This is a role for OD to help organizations through the transition process.

 A recommended approach to accomplish the change is demonstrated in five stages:

Stage 1: Create Awareness – where are we and where do we want to go, then create a vision and goals. 

Stage 2:  Where are we in terms of compliance? More than a third of organizations today find themselves in the compliant stage, meaning they are focused on compliance with EEO and other legal requirements, moving from the compliant stage can be challenging as it requires a shift and major change initiative with buy-in from the senior leader team.  To get them to agree, show them how DEI initiatives can achieve organization vision, mission, values, and goals. 

Stage 3: Tactical – the Organization has moved beyond meeting requirements to fully engage in executing their own DEI initiatives – grassroots movements such as mentoring, diversity celebrations, forming diverse focus groups. Yet, organizations in this stage lack a strategic plan for DEI and culture change. Organizations need to collect data, define their goals, and identify a list of priorities and short- and long-term goals.  They also need to ask critical questions such as: do we need to standardize our practices? How can we create feedback loops to determine success? 

Stage 4: Integrated – creating a strategy that integrates everything we do as an organization, both internal and external to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture.

Stage 5: Creating Sustainability – your DEI efforts are best in class and you are recognized for your achievement.  Efforts over time continuously improve and evolve.  (Ella F. Washington, Harvard Business Review, November 2022, pp. 92-99)

The final challenge for OD is culture change. Due to disruptive changes in the workplace, current employees don’t feel connected to corporate culture or values.  Leaders feel culture is permeated in the corporate vision, mission, and values; employees feel corporate values should align with their own values, there is no longer the notion of organization fit.  People have their own beliefs and values, and organizations are realizing the need to better understand and support employee values.  OD can lead a change process to create values alignment using OD concepts to identify and align your organization values system. When values are aligned, they support your strategy, and create overall employee satisfaction, higher performance, and impact your value proposition.

The field of OD was introduced over 75 years ago by Kurt Lewin who shared his research on creating a more democratic organization using research methodology and the field of Behavioral Science to study organization systems.  OD offers the ARM model for Change and a variety of interactions to support major challenges facing organizations. The contributions of the OD pioneers and those currently working in the field of OD today, can support organizations with any major change initiative.


About the Author:

Dr. Nancy Zentis is the Founder of Institute of Organization Development (IOD), offering online Certification Programs in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching.  As a consultant in the field of OD, Dr. Zentis specialized helping organizations lead change and develop Organization Design, Succession Planning, Talent Management, and Leadership Development Strategies for many leading organizations.  She can be reached at info@instituteod.com

For more information about our certification programs and professional development workshops, visit our website www.instituteod.com.

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