Strategic Organizational Development

OD professionals are the CEOs allies in creating a top performance culture for the organization.

Organizational Development professionals are specialists in Change Management and Culture Development. However many find themselves in positions that make it difficult to get a straight line of communication to the CEO. Mainly because of the Organizational structure and the fact that OD-Organization Development is located under HR. Ideally the OD Head would have a position on the same level as the HR Head according to Dr. William Rothwell from Pennstate University who is an authority in HR. However reality is that most OD professionals still work under the more traditional structure.

Some years ago I held an OD role that reported directly into the CEO – HR did not!! – so to some extent this is down to the CEO and their experience of what an OD professional can and cannot deliver in relation to their needs and vision for the organization.

OD as a discipline is getting is only recently starting to grow an a standalone profession. More so with the pangs of growth that many of the new organizations are now facing. Talent acquisition, retention, organizational culture and people development are now starting to hinge more on the OD professional more than the HR. Recognizing this aspect, many organizations are allocating independent structures for the OD function. However, in cases where the OD has to work under HR, whether he/she can connect to the CEO solely depends on what he/she is capable of taking to the table. If a OD professional can sparkle with out-of-the-box ideas which can directly contribute to the growth of organization, the CEO cannot turn a blind eye.

Back in the 60’s and 70’s OD focused on people, behaviours and their actions and interactions with each other, in those days the majority of organizations did not know how to look after or engage with their people –

Things have now changed, much is different

CEO’s are having their valuable time ever squeezed and as such will only be able to have people reporting directly in that can add directly and measurably to their primary objectives. They have to focus on the big picture or strategic matters.

Unfortunately it is not very often that OD practitioner can demonstrate primary change. If we want to be engaged at this level we need to re-evaluate what we do and what is classed as OD activity. For example, traditionally when undertaking diagnostic processes we seem to focus on people and behaviours, or on the culture, now we need to be more integrated and holistic. This means starting to look at factors which traditionally have not been the domain of OD practitioner. If we are to truly facilitate change then our diagnostic process need to map the PRIMO-F model – that is to cover:

  • People,
  • Resources,
  • Innovation,
  • Marketing,
  • Operations and
  • Finance elements,

For it is how these factors interact that provide the organization with either an advantage or disadvantage in the market place. When undertaking a SWOT analysis for your organization do you cover all of these elements appropriately? Sure we may not be in a position to solve any issues raised here but as OD facilitators our role is to identify any blocks in the organization, then help to facilitate a solution.

So if we really want to get noticed we need to really get strategic and start looking at interactions with people and systems in all elements of our respective organizations.


Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. He has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via

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