With the International Monetary Fund reporting subdued growth and persistent inflation in 2024, organisations may be tempted to seek refuge in efficiency seeking. But efficiency does not inherently equate to effectiveness.
With the help of organisational development (OD), HR and people teams have an opportunity to demonstrate this, and to instead maximise organisational effectiveness. But how, exactly? And what steps can you take to cultivate these skills within your team?
1. OD helps you build capability for what lays ahead
Maintaining an unwavering focus on your organisation’s strategic goals is critical in 2024.
Regrettably many strategic documents are light on detail. They focus on ‘what’ we’re going to do rather than ‘how’ we’re going to do it. This gap often leaves an ambiguity around the essential capabilities that an organisation needs to effectively execute its strategy. These could be specific skills, knowledge, systems, or information.
The fallout of such an approach trickles down to operational managers who grapple with the dilemma of where to best invest resources. In the absence of clear guidelines, managers are often left to make their own judgement calls in isolation.
Identifying the root causes of issues within an organisational system is at the heart of OD.
Organisational development can act as a vital lever to breathe life into strategy, by identifying the necessary capabilities required for effective delivery and ensuring targeted investment. The field offers well-structured, facilitated approaches that bring together senior leaders to work through the ambiguities and identify the critical capabilities needed to accomplish the strategy.
Often leaders will have contrasting views about what is required. OD can help them work through their differences, supporting them to evaluate options and prioritise essential capabilities.
It requires hard work and focus but can transform strategic ideas into tactical reality.
2. OD helps you create alignment between your strategy, structure and people
Proactive organisations can use 2024 to create greater alignment between the strategy, organisation structure, and people. All too often these three elements are in conflict with each other, and much energy is wasted in the resulting misalignment.
We’ve all encountered strategies that require collaboration across departments to achieve ambitious goals. However, the organisation structure unintentionally promotes siloed working.
Identifying the root causes of issues within an organisational system is at the heart of OD. Through careful diagnostic and dialogic processes, organisational development can pave the way for improved relationships and streamlined processes, enhancing interaction between managers and teams, as well as bridging gaps between different levels of hierarchy.
We have a profound opportunity to leverage diverse strengths to foster a more resilient, adaptable and innovative workforce.
OD in practice
We’ve recently worked with an organisation facing a challenge in ensuring accountability for the delivery of key strategic objectives. The work structure, centred around project teams, made it difficult to identify individuals responsible for specific tasks.
Once this systemic issue was identified, the OD-based solution was to support leaders and their teams to set clear expectations and foster effective delegation. This approach not only resolved the immediate problem but also bolstered the organisation’s capacity to meet similar challenges in the future.
3. OD helps you leverage the full benefits of a diverse workforce
As we navigate through 2024, high inflation, a cost-of-living crisis and better health are contributing to delayed retirement. As a result, workplaces can have up to five different generations working together.
Whilst we’re mindful of stereotyping, it can be a useful lens for understanding different lived experiences of people in our organisations. We must consider the diversity and complexity arising from different experience, viewpoints, productivity methods, work styles, home lives, and technical literacy. Here we have a profound opportunity to leverage diverse strengths to foster a more resilient, adaptable and innovative workforce.
Through OD approaches, people are encouraged to voice their individual needs. This helps to lay the groundwork where the team can mutually agree on a working approach that acknowledges, respects, and values their differences.
Should you build internal or external OD capability?
The dilemma for 2024 is whether organisations should build their own internal OD capability or bring in external expertise. Some teams opt for the upskilling route, leveraging the surge in both academic and work-based OD courses available.
It takes time to develop the mindset and skills to become a confident OD practitioner and it’s important to provide support for developing OD practitioners as facilitating change can be complex and stressful.
Securing investment for dedicated full-time OD role can be a hurdle. As a workaround, many organisations initially adopt hybrid OD roles where responsibilities and time are divided between OD and another role such as Diversity and Inclusion. This strategy not only mitigates resource constraints but also weaves in valuable cross-functional expertise into the OD function.
External OD capability can bring the advantage of fresh perspectives and an unbiased point of view as well as giving you the option to scale up or down based on your evolving needs during crucial moments in the change process.
Steps to start using OD in 2024
In the face of economic and political unpredictability in 2024, OD can be an excellent lever for facilitating change and growth by shifting the focus from mere efficiency to concrete effectiveness.
1. Connect with OD professionals
Engage with OD practitioners to build your understanding of the OD practices and how other organisations are effectively implementing these principles.
2. Identify and analyse current challenges
Pinpoint a significant issue your organisation is currently grappling with. Use this as a case study to explore how the application of OD principles could generate innovative solutions and insights.
3. Embark on a learning journey
Dive deep into the realm of OD by accessing relevant resources such as articles, webinars, and online courses. This will broaden your understanding of OD and equip you with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to apply it effectively.
Interested in this topic? Read Eight alternatives to reorganising your people