Why Organisational Development often fails to deliver

organisation piecesOrganisational Development (OD) is the name or label given to many HR and training related strategies, but it is more than that.

Bennis in his early work “Organizational Development: nature, origins & prospects” defines OD as:

“a response to change, a complex educational strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values and structure of organizations so that they can better adapt to new technologies, markets and challenges”

This is just as true today as it was in 1969!

Research carried out within the Business Link organisation in the late 1990s and Warwick university looked at SME (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) (50-500 employees as an autonomous business unit or legal entity) with the view of identifying why management development strategies did not work.  In summary the conclusions were:

  1. Activity not linked to organisational objectives
  2. No overall strategy for corporate development
  3. Corporate culture not taken into account
  4. Purchasers not clear about what they are buying
  5. Suppliers finding solutions to problems they can solve
  6. Lack of evaluation
  7. Time pressures on managers
  8. Change process not managed
  9. Lack of (appropriate) ownership

These factors were found to be true for: training, organisational development, change and business support and improvement activity.

Starting out on the right foot

Some time ago I undertook a survey called “Developing the Developers” and one of the significant findings of this was the fact that the missing element in the majority of interventions was that of appropriate diagnosis. This is also true in organisational development at a holistic level. For any OD strategy to be effective we need to have a base of understanding of “where are we now”, we need to undertake a review of our business that can act as a benchmark measure. This will also enable evaluation of policy and strategy to be more effective. In other words before undertaking any OD activity we need to undertake some form of quantitative diagnostic process. This will then act as a reference point for all future development interventions and aid the evaluation of success (ROI etc).

Get the diagnostic process right and you have a great chance of success, miss it out or get it wrong and the chances of success are little to none.  As the saying goes “fail to plan… plan to fail” planning in an OD context is diagnosis AND prioritisation.

The Business Improvement Review was designed to provide a holistic overview of an organisation with the view of undertaking OD or business improvement activity.


Management and Leadership development are importent to you and of course to the team here at RapidBI. We hope you find this information valuable, if you do please tweet or facebook like this page. Thanks

Check Out Mike Morrison's Book on Organizational Development – Theory and Practice, for tools and tips on developing organizations, managers and leaders on Amazon and Kindle

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.

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