Whether technology implementation, process improvement, or cultural transformation, implementing change is hard.  It involves engaging the human dynamics of an organization; dynamics that are complex, social, and unique to each community.  In their 2021 International Journal of Engineering Business Management research article, reviewing an array of change models, Abdelouahab Errida and Bouchra Lotfi, ascertain that using only one model may not provide a full description of the change management process… [that] several change models could be combined to best fit the particular situation of change or the circumstances of an organization. Angela Lee of Columbia Business School proposes that resistance to change is rooted in psychology and neuroscience which reveal that our individual brains are wired for laziness, limited capacity, and [simply] don’t like change.  Though the psychology and neuroscience claims may be valid, if cynical, I advocate David Cooperrider’s observation that, People don’t resist change. They resist being changed. 

Fundamentally, the human dynamics challenge seems rooted in the context of individual choice.  The popular Prosci® model emphasizes and coaches around the individual need to desire change. I have, throughout my time engaging change, intuitively sought to leverage available value propositions to influence individual choice for change.  Revealing genuine individual benefit can serve to counter the grief of loss that comes when change feels imposed.  Even leaders must choose to willingly lead the way and model new behavior.

Given these human dynamics, development and change agents remain challenged to discern and affect the human factor of each particular environment seeking to make a change.

Organization Development (OD) is the scholarship and practice of applied social sciences to cohesive groups of people – organizations, communities, unions and the like. OD professionals tune into and assess an entire social system with an aim to guide and coach it to discover and evolve itself, bringing people-based processes to do so.  To clarify, OD professionals are not hired to fix a system like a doctor or manage it like human resources (HR). We might work with individuals and teams, though usually with ALL of them or those identified as requiring support to fit the organization as it needs and wants to be as a whole.  Those who practice are typically systems thinkers, with a view on how people, process and systems work (or don’t) together. We discover how a system may work against its own interests and support it to evolve to serve those interests instead, not in doing anything to the system but by supporting its development of a more effective way.

We support pursuits like strategy-culture alignment and employee engagement through a variety of aforementioned people processes, including:

  • Strategy development
  • Leadership and management development
  • Team development
  • Coaching and facilitation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Large group interventions
  • Succession planning
  • Talent acquisition, retention and development
  • The list goes on…

…but OD professionals do not typically specialize in a single process. We usually have a capacity for multiple processes. Our specialty is in getting to know the system and what it may need, then figuring out the process to support it through research, drawing from our professional community, and trial and adaptation.

As a coach supports an individual to their own growth and development, so do OD professionals support an organization and all its individuals to its whole growth and development. To do this, we must start by engaging the very top level. If leadership is unwilling to change, there is little hope for the whole system to do so. That is the rub. On the subject of employee engagement, for OD, it isn’t about managing employees to engage; it’s about engaging employees, and we can support leadership and management to develop the capacity to do so effectively. Transformation of an organization requires every single member to develop new capacities. We can support that process, too.

If, as a leader, you are looking to take your organization to a new level or in a different direction, we can support you to evolve your organization, as a whole, to move that way. Call on us via OD professional organizations such as the OD Network or the International Society of Organization and Change as well as higher education such as Benedictine or Case Western Reserve University. You can bring us in as external or internal consultants as we do our best work in autonomy from the system, not tucked in to a department, other than perhaps the C-Suite.

We, Organizational Development professionals, look forward to serving your organization’s strategic development needs.

Be well.