Determine When OD Interventions Are, Aren’t in Order

By Ken Moore May 30, 2008
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Q: How do I know when an OD intervention is the right choice for solving my business partner’s problem?

A: Let’s look at this from a proper business point of view. Current leaders assess and manage every link of their organization’s value chain actively for possible weaknesses. The weakness of any link directly affects the strength of the entire chain, and thus the company’s ability to fulfill its business plan.

value chain analysis includes the human resources element as well as operations, sales and marketing, logistics and technology. If a company is having difficulty fulfilling its customers’ orders, then it needs to examine the entire process to see where the problems are occurring and develop solutions to fix them.

Since leadership is a vital link in the value chain, companies must gather data to support any concerns about their leadership effectiveness by answering a few questions. For example:

  • Is the business being properly run and satisfying its multiple stakeholders?
  • Is the decision making process flawed?
  • Is the company infrastructure designed for maximum efficiency and profitability?
  • Are cash flow, revenue and cost reduction metrics acceptable?
  • What are the employees, customers and vendors saying about the company?
  • Are there personal or personality issues to be resolved?

When a leadership issue or problem arises, first make two general determinations:

  • What is the current state of the partner’s behavior?
  • What is the desired state of the partner’s behavior?

The differences between the two will suggest possible courses of action, including an OD intervention. OD interventions will typically work under the following conditions:

  • The survival of the organization is in jeopardy.
  • There is strong backing from the other partners for this approach.
  • There is sufficient qualitative and quantitative data available to justify arguments.
  • That a positive outcome for all concerned is strongly indicated by such an intervention.

If the partners are willing to discuss and consider flaws in achieving the desired performance, OD improvements may appropriately strengthen the weak links. If there are personality conflicts between or among the partners, OD interventions will work only if the company’s performance data clearly indicate one strategy over another.

Correctly or not, most CEOs make business decisions based on where the quantitative data leads them. These decisions are further buttressed by the qualitative data that is presented in the arguments. The key is to have valid data to support the argument for such an intervention.

Ken Moore is president of the Ballston Spa, N.Y.-based organizational development consulting firm Ken Moore Associates. He is an adjunct professor at the State University of New York—Albany and at the Union Graduate College, where he teaches graduate courses in strategic management. Moore also is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management's Organizational Development Special Expertise Panel. He can be reached at kmoore01@nycap.rr.com.

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