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For many the concept of Organisational Development (OD) remains an elusive concept that is linked to improving the bottom line.  Different from other forms of planned change, such as management consulting, project management, operations management or product innovation, OD focuses on building the organisation’s ability to assess its current functioning and, subsequently, implement the necessary changes to achieve its goals.  OD is an approach to improving the total organisational system, which can range from including individual parts of the organisation to the larger organisational environment that affects organisational performance.

OD vs Change Management

Organisational Development can be distinguished from Change Management and Organisational Change.  Both address the effective implementation of planned change and are both concerned with the sequence of activities, the process and the leadership that produce organisation improvement.  They differ, however, in their underlying value orientation.  OD’s behavioural science foundation supports values of human potential, participation and development in addition to performance and competitive advantage.  Change Management focuses more narrowly on values of cost, quality and schedule.  As a result, OD’s distinguishing feature is its concern with the transfer of knowledge and skill so that the organisation is able to improve their change management in the future.  In short, all OD involves change management but change management may not involve OD.

OD vs Organisational Change

Organisational Change is a broader concept than OD. As discussed OD is primarily concerned with managing change in such a way that knowledge and skills are transferred to build the organisation’s capability to achieve goals and solve problems.  It is intended to change the organisations in a particular direction towards improved problem solving, responsiveness and effectiveness.  Organisational change, in contrast, is more broadly focused and can apply to any kind of change, including technical and managerial innovations, organisation decline or the evolution of a system over time. These changes may or may not be directed at making the organisation more developed in the sense implied by OD.

Is your organisation effective?

The Four Oxen want to improve organisational effectiveness by firstly assessing an organisation’s effectiveness based on the following three categories.

  1. Assessing how capable an organisation is in solving problems and continually improving itself.
  2. Assessing the level of financial and technical performance to understand how social science practices can lower costs, improve products and services and increase productivity.
  3. Assessing the level of engaged, satisfied and learning workforce, as well as the level of satisfied and loyal customers or of other external stakeholders.


The Relevance of Organisation Development

Organisations must adapt to increasingly complex and uncertain technological, economic, political and cultural changes.  Thus, OD becomes relevant to any organisation, regardless of size, effectiveness or industry.   OD could help an organisation to become and create effective responses to these changes and, in many cases, to proactively influence the strategic direction of the firm.

Just alone the rapidly changing conditions of the last two years confirm the obvious need to adapt an OD strategy in every South African organisation.  These and other obvious observations  accentuate that organisations are in the midst of unprecedented uncertainty and chaos, and nothing short of management revolution will save them. This management revolution has to take effect urgently and do so while considering the three major trends that are shaping the current changes in organisations: globalisation, information technology and managerial innovation.

OD services a la “The Four Oxen”

The Four Oxen’s OD services focus on applying a broad range of behavioural science knowledge and practices to help organisations build their change capability and to achieve greater effectiveness, including increased financial performance, employee satisfaction and environmental sustainability. With that in mind, the OD service offered by The Four Oxen approaches planned change with the following goals:

  1. Analysing and understanding the strategy, structure and/or processes of the entire organisational system or parts thereof. For example, this might include changes in both the grouping of people to perform tasks (structure) and in methods of communicating and solving problems (process) to support the changes in strategy.  It might also include helping a top-management team become more effective by focusing on social processes and task coordination with a group.
  2. The application and transfer of behavioural science knowledge and practice in relation to micro concepts such as leadership, group dynamics and work design, as well as macro concepts such as strategy, organisation design and culture change. With the transfer of knowledge and skill the organisational system becomes more capable of carrying out planned change in the future.
  3. Diagnose and solve organisational problems to create flexible plans that are revised as new information is gathered as the change process progresses.
  4. To move beyond the initial efforts of change implementation towards a long term and sustained change within the organisation.  In other words, The Four Oxen guides its clientele through design, implementation and subsequent reinforcement of change.

This is where the crucial difference between the HR and OD services offered by The Four Oxen becomes clearly relevant again.

Organisation Development

  • Is it only for JSE listed companies?
  • What is OD?
  • Why is OD important to South African organisations of all sizes?
  • Different managerial styles to manage the inherent conflict between the needs of the organisation and the needs of people
  • Is there an inherent conflict between the needs of the organisation and the needs of its people